On the Pitch: Chapter One

I was often asked by people what was the most taxing part of my career path, and contrary to popular belief it wasn't the chauvinistic bastards that were my counterparts, or the five in the morning starts, actually it was the feet. It sounds bizarre, I realise, but ask any athlete; it's the one thing that footballers and ballerinas share and can really bond on - trust me you begin to understand this in the hairdressers or even at award ceremonies but mostly when you're both at the salon for a much needed Mani-Pedi. Insert loud sigh, ah the joys of superficiality. Mani-Pedi's were a godsend for us mere footballers, how else do you think the wretched smell is left in our trainers after training and the excess amounts of mud taken from our cuticles. I seriously don't understand how people called this the 'good life'. Stop me if I sound like I detest getting free premiere tickets and discounted cars but does anyone actually realise how infuriating it is when we're accused of sitting on our asses all day?

This article is mainly in response to Kerry's loving letter of how we, "soccer players" and other athletes in the obviously very united Kingdom, are lazy so and so's who do nothing but drive fast cars and get pissed every night. You mean... I don't have a talent? That the whole world lied to me when I finished school to kick a ball around a field fourteen hours a day? Insert another fake sigh, I wish someone had warned me before I had given up the choice of eating carbs, seeing my family regularly, and now travel great distances and play with fatigue in every bone of my bone every weekend. Just to clarify Kerry, when you say we are all stupid, I'd say you could be right in the sense that us women footballers especially allow men to dictate us to a point where we're not even allowed to get pregnant until our career is over, call me a liberal feminist but not all of us conform. And when you talk of fast cars... sweetie, I drive a toyota. Oh and if you didn't know... during the season, respectable footballers refrain from drinking.

But darling, the most important thing that you need to know is that it's actually football, not soccer.

By Kiara Morgan of Manchester United Women's Team. Kiara is a 19 year old A-level student who is the top scorer for the Women's team and to our delight, is dating the captain of rival team Gareth Johnson. How cliche?

It was difficult trying to control the urge to rip up the magazine in front of me. I couldn't believe my whole article had amounted to nothing the minute they involved Gareth in it. I stared down at it as my hands tightened around the picture of me in my kit and the fitting shirtless photo of Gareth above the caption. Were they actually serious? Thousands of years of the oppression of women for some stupid magazine to prove men right, that we apparently only can process the different types of thought: one of make up and hair, one of men and their lack of clothing and one of gossip. My non-state of the art phone begin to buzz on my table, and call me egoistic but it played my own personal chant that I heard every weekend from the stands. So sue me, I loved it.

"Guten Tag meine Liebster." I answered, seeing the name "Nadia" flash on my non-LCD screen. "Wie gehts?"

"What the hell are you saying, Ki?" Was the reply I received.

"Nads, I thought you said you had been working on your deutsch?"

"My what?"

I sighed. Oh dear. It was the common impression that if you're around a language enough, you'll eventually start to pick it up in bits and pieces. However this was not the case with Nadia and the strange thing is that she's bilingual or trilingual, although I wouldn't exactly be surprised if she could speak more language. Nadia is very Sikh. Very Sikh? Jeez, ok scratch that, she's Sikh and can speak like every language in India I swear. You'd think with her fiancee being German she'd at least recognise 'Liebster', which is German for darling. Maybe it's like a domino effect, when she stopped speaking hindi or whatever, maybe it stopped her being able to learn other languages? Nadia stopped speaking hindi, I'd say around the same time her parents disowned her and kicked her to the streets for dating a "gorah", I think that means a non-asian boy. And I used to think every time they called me "gori" it was a compliment, obviously not.

"Never mind, anyway what's up?"

"Flight tickets for Austria came, you definitely still coming with the girls and me, right?"

"Of course, wouldn't miss it for the world."

Not that I really could anyway... I mean the lads qualified, as in the English National Team, the team my dad coaches and so I got free tickets to matches. By the girls, Nadia means the last two out of our unique quad: Gerard and Elle. I'm not going to give you some spiel about how we've been friends forever, because I think it's been about... 2 years in all honesty that we've all been friends but Nadia and Elle since they were kids and Gerard and I have been teammates at United since we were fifteen for nearly 5 years now. Yes we do realise Gerard is indeed not a girl and he's not gay either it's just an endearment I suppose. Anyway Austria was where the Euros was being held, the best nations in europe battling it out for a month to be crowned the best. Nadia would be supporting Johan with Germany, Elle would be supporting her husband Luc who played for Spain with Gerard and I would be supporting my dad's team obviously.

We had all met at one of those awards dinner just before the World Cup had kicked off. Gazing around the room, I remembered looking in disgust at the tacky outfit adorned with large, over the top jewels that had been adopted as the signature look of most wags, during that moment I noticed mirrored looks coming from a blonde girl seated at the Spain table next to Gerard and an asian girl sitting behind her from the Germany table. And from that moment on it was fate. Really, no lie. I crossed the sea of tables to talk to Gerard and the blonde immediately commented with a smile on my simple little black dress that she and the asian girl seemed to have replicas of.

My phone beeped, signaling another call waiting. It was Gerard. I asked Nadia to hold on for one second before switching the calls.

"Hola Gerard, I'm on the phone to Nads, whats up?"

"Hey, have you bought this months 4-4-2 yet?" His accented voice questioned.

"Yeah I have why?" I picked up said copy I had gotten this morning and waited.

"You better take a look at page 72. You're going to hate it, but I think it would come in handy for your next article." I opened the magazine and scanned my way through the book before my eyes froze on page 72.

"That bastard." My eyes flew over the pages furiously as I tried to let in as much oxygen as I could.

Fatale Female Football by Tristan Salvador.

Is it too much to ask for the pride and joy of so many European men that women's football should not receive the same financing from their clubs as the male counterparts? No, I don't believe so. The sport which has been a ritual for young boys for centuries on end is losing the war against what can only be viewed as a sort of football communist. I am certain of the repercussions that will amount from this article but I must clarify that this issue is not about women's in-capabilities or written for the reason being that I am a "chauvinistic pig", rather more for the tradition of football. Why ruin a perfectly good cycle? Yes, there have been amazing women players, for example Mia Hamm, and the new generation of Naomi Cruz and the ever-famous Kiara Morgan, but to be great in female football is to be average in male.

I growled. That fucking Tristan Salvador. That chauvinistic... assface. I didn't bother even reading the rest of the article as I threw it down onto my desk and growled again in frustration.

"I can't believe you're friends with such a bastard. Wait until I see him, Gerard, I'm going to knock that irritating little smirk off of his face and feed it to his cat."

"He doesn't have a cat."

"That's not the point!"

Tristan fucking Salvador. Oh how I longed to rip him to shreds. Now he's someone I can happily just kill and feel no remorse. In fact, someone somewhere would probably give me a trophy or two. You know when you hate someone for so many different reasons that you can't actually put a defining moment of when you started to hate them? Yup, that was my relationship with Tristan. He considered himself to be some amazing pundit when it came to the politics of football, when in reality he just happened to be a player. A striker. A world-class ego-manic one at that. And that gave him no right or qualification to judge our football. I knew the only person who would really understand my hatred of him would be Gareth.

"Look I'm going to call Gareth to vent, so I'll see you later, alright?"

I could almost feel the disapproving look Gerard was omitting and frankly didn't care.

"That's it, just fuel his hatred for Tris some more."

To say Gareth and Salvador hated each other would be an understatement. It had all started during a Champions League match, Chelsea v Real Madrid when Salvador had gotten Gareth sent off for no reason and well, Real went on to win the match 4-2, three of the goals from the devil himself. It was like batman versus the Joker or something, it really didn't get better with time. Where Gareth endorsed Adidas, Salvador for Nike; when Gareth modeled Versace for GQ, Salvador up-ed his game and modeled Armani for Vogue. While Gareth looked absolutely charming and to me delicious in his pressed and tailored to perfection suit, Salvador's campaign was large twelve foot billboards of him in nothing but his designer briefs. Nadia and Elle just happened to love them. Personally, the worse part of the season for me was Gareth losing out the Fifa World Player of the Year to come second only to that fucker Salvador. So Gareth didn't spend half his time on the pitch doing pathetic and time-wasting tricks, he was there to score goals and that's what he did, twenty-four of them actually, and even though Salvador managed to get 38 it didn't count, that was in La Liga for fucks sake. Even a penguin could score in that league. To prove your worth it would have to be in the Premiership, I'd love to see Salvador even try. This league was raw, rough and above all didn't accommodate divers.

The Euro 2008 was Gareth chance to finally shine on a big stage and there was no way in hell I would let Salvador ruin that.

I vowed to do whatever it takes to make sure Gareth shined. Even if it meant locking Salvador up in a cellar dungeon and beating him into a bloody pulp with brass knuckles.

No, no. I joke.

Kind of.

AN: Hey everyone, this is the first chapter of the newly edited On the Pitch, I seriously hope it's better than the previous and all that effort I put in wasn't in vain. The story is slightly changed but the plot is generally the same. It's now set during the Euro 2008, which Spain WON yesterday, woo! And minor characters such as Colette and Christian, along with Naomi have been removed. Let me know what you think, please!

Thanks to all the offers of help, I do plan to get in touch with all of you, so expect an email or PM in the next few days!

Thanks again.

Ali x